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George "Poqe" Popescu (1980-2019) was an award-winning photographer who traveled the world to bring his stories home. He hoped to visit New York to explore its streets, the noise, the people, the urban tumult. His wish is now brought to life by friends and family in this retrospective exhibition and as a result, his story will be passed further into the world.
“Fire in the Belly” serves as a way to succinctly describe George and his way of being. As one of the most talented and hardworking Romanian photojournalists of his era, a "kind and brave soul", George was equally admired by his friends and peers.
“Fire in the Belly” is about the strong passion to connect with people that George possessed. He was dedicated to depicting the empathetic and humanitarian path he found in life through his art. On the darker side of this metaphoric coin, it is also representative of the way he left this life at only 39 years old; consumed by a ruthless gastric cancer.
George was brought up in a village in communist Romania. He wasn't particularly interested in school or its regulation. This relative aversion to authority afforded him an education via interacting with people from all over the world and all walks of life – from hardened coal miners to obnoxiously drunk German partygoers at foam parties, from homeless kids of Bucharest to people of Mauritania's desert. He was perpetually free-spirited. Fortunately, many of us met him as a result of this special and inherent trait; transitory moments that ultimately led to a connection that lasted a lifetime.
“I first put my hand on a camera at 23 (years old) when I didn’t know much about it. About four years before this, I was refused employment with McDonalds - my first “serious” job where I applied with a resume I still laugh at right now. I wasn’t “qualified” for flipping burgers. Instead, I knew Microsoft Office [...] and spoke intermediate-level English. I was attending college for Management in Tourism, just to escape mandatory army recruitment. I was lucky enough to receive a PC and learn how to do computer programing. I was constantly reading about web design, I was learning about color theory, special effects and fonts such as “sans serif.” – (George Popescu)
As a self-taught artist, at first George “practiced” among friends by capturing moments at wild parties, concerts, clubs, eccentric trips, crowded apartments and deserted beaches. He bought his first professional camera around 2006 which is when he started his website: www.poqe.com, to share his work with others.
After gaining experience in the industry, George aligned his focus with his passion for people through photojournalism. He was an E-Nost Press Agency member and a co-founder of “Documentaria,” an independent photojournalist community. His stories were published in the majority of the independent publications of Romania over the past decade (many of them obtaining awards) and also in forums such as CNN, FAZ, Spiegel, L’Express, Vice and Das Erste. In 2015, he won an award in the “Single Image” section of Lensculture 2015 Visual Storytelling Awards (The “Coal Train” photo, Mauritania – in exhibition). He also collaborated as a videographer/cameraman with German Public Television (ARD), ARTE TV.
"Poqe was able to make friends right away, whether he met them at a divey watering hole in a small village or a prestigious event in Bucharest. He was able to talk to them for hours and make them laugh. He was full of life and everybody would feel comfortable around him. You would feel from the first encounter that he was a good person and you would immediately give up your poker face and the precaution you use when meeting someone new. This interpersonal relaxation is obvious in his photos. You can't capture a good photo if people are not comfortable in your presence” –
(Petrut Calinescu - Photographer)
Because an exhibition can only offer a brief glimpse of selected images, there is a project to include a comprehensive retrospective of George’s work into a photo book scheduled to launch in February 2020, commemorating one year from his death. The sales from this exhibit will contribute to the realization of this catalog. Revenues from the book will be donated to oncology-focused philanthropies.
We're a small gallery based in Bushwick. We love Poqe. Please join us in celebration of his work.